The golden sands of Rajasthan

By: | Published: January 23, 2016 12:05 AM

We travel from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer, and back to Delhi, in three Honda cars—CR-V, Jazz and City

“Did you buy the Honda CR-V because the Supreme Court has banned the registration of Toyota Fortuner, and several other diesel SUVs, in Delhi?” the petrol pump attendant asks me, looking at the Delhi-registered CR-V I am driving in Jodhpur.

Clearly, in India, an SUV means it has to be a diesel; petrol SUVs such as the CR-V have long lost their charm.
We are driving three cars—CR-V, City and Jazz—from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer to Barmer and back to Delhi, participating in the sixth edition of the Honda Drive to Discover rally. The first leg takes us from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer.

Day 1

Getting out of Jodhpur takes time. The second-largest city of Rajasthan has grown beyond its limits and, in the process, is losing its sobriquet—the blue city (it is called so due to the vivid blue-painted houses around the Mehrangarh Fort). Today, many other hues are cropping up; citizens are paining their homes red, brown, yellow, even pink. One you leave the city—generally takes over an hour—the relatively empty two-lane highway welcomes you. It’s 235 km to Jaisalmer and a non-stop journey can be done in under four hours. A good place to take a break is the Manvar Resort & Desert Camp, 110 km from Jodhpur.

Distance travelled: 235 km

Time on the road: 7 hours

Car driven: CR-V

Fuel efficiency: 8kpl

The drive experience: Since it is a petrol, the CR-V has a very quiet cabin. Although the CVT automatic gearbox growls when pushed hard, on a light foot the drive is unruffled. The dampener, however, is the low mileage compared to diesel SUVs, which deliver 12-13kpl.

Day 2

The day is spent discovering known and unknown places around Jaisalmer. In fact, apart from the usual landing places such as the Jaisalmer Fort, Raj Mahal, Jain Temple and various havelis (Diwan Nath Mahal, Salim Singh and Patwon ki Haveli), one can visit places such as the Gadsisar lake (excavated in 1367 AD), spot wildlife in the huge Desert National Park, visit the Tanot Mata temple (has a museum that displays unexploded bombs during 1965 Indo-Pak war) or drive to Longewala (immortalised in the semi-fictional movie, Border). If you like adventure, you can head to Sam sand dunes (40 km from city) and experience dune bashing. While the sport is best experienced in a tried-and-tested 4×4 SUV such as the Fortuner (most Jaisalmer hotels will arrange the same), we suggest you hire a local at Sam sand dunes—the SUV used is Mahindra Thar and the cost is at least four times lesser.

Distance travelled: 100 km

Time on the road: Few hours

Car driven: Jazz diesel

Fuel efficiency: 20kpl

The drive experience: In the Jazz diesel, a lot of engine noise enters the cabin. However, the ride is smooth and the car’s suspension absorbs most potholes. The mileage it delivers is impressive.

Day 3

“Barmer used to be a sleepy merchant town a few years ago. And then Mangala happened,” the hotel manager tells us, as we leave for Jodhpur via Barmer, a 160-km detour. “For a tourist, there is practically nothing to do in Barmer. (The Mangala area is a major oilfield located near Barmer.) Now what you get to see in the city is lots of trucks, dust, haphazard growth and a Cairn India office. However, if you are a foodie, and if you have to go to Barmer, do visit the Goodhall restaurant to savour the local Maalaani cuisine—the taste is a bit different from that of Rajasthani cuisine. From Barmer, it’s 210 km to Jodhpur.

Distance travelled: 370 km

Time on the road: 8 hours

Car driven: City diesel

Fuel efficiency: 22kpl

The drive experience: The cabin of the City diesel is also noisy, but the ride is placid on smooth roads. On the highways, the car is a mile-muncher; we constantly did three-figure speeds and got an excellent mileage of 22kpl.

Day 4

There are numerous things to do in Jodhpur—start your day with masala chai (spiced tea) at any local tea stall, explore Mehrangarh Fort (will take half a day), click yourself in front of the majestic Umaid Bhawan Palace (in the TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Awards announced yesterday, the Umaid Bhawan Palace, now run by the Taj Group, was named the best hotel of 2016) or better still, stay there. When in Jodhpur, do visit the Janta Sweet Home, popular for its delectable Jodhpur specialities such as mirchi vada (a fried snack) and pyaaz kachori (crisp spicy pastry).

From Jodhpur, there are direct flights to Delhi, which is about an hour’s journey. We, instead, drove the CR-V. The 600-km journey takes about 12 hours (tea breaks included), but we discovered it can be done faster in powerful cars. We took only 8 hours.

Distance travelled: 600 km

Time on the road: 8 hours

Car driven: CR-V

Fuel efficiency: 9kpl

The drive experience: The CR-V is both a mile-muncher and a petrol-guzzler. We had to stop on the way to refuel. Even on good roads and at steady speeds, we couldn’t manage more than 9kpl.

(Available only in petrol, the CR-V is priced from Rs 21.2 lakh to Rs 25.2 lakh. The prices for City petrol start from Rs 7.7 lakh, and those for City diesel start from Rs 8.93 lakh. Jazz petrol is available from Rs 5.45 lakh onwards, while Jazz diesel starts from Rs 6.64 lakh. Ex-showroom, Delhi, as of January 2016.)

In this series—Destination India—we drive different cars to different parts of the country, telling you in brief both about the places and the wheels we take to explore these

Safety, standard

Dual airbags are now standard equipment in the City, at no extra cost

On Friday, Honda Cars India announced that dual SRS airbags have been made standard equipment for all grades in the City sedan, at no additional cost; ABS and EBD are already standard. The company also introduced a new VX(O) BL grade with black leather interiors in the City. The new grade is positioned alongside the existing VX(O) grade in beige leather interiors and is offered in manual transmission in both petrol & diesel options. This grade also comes with a sunroof and audio-visual navigation (AVN).

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